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Sounding a sour note

Cori Gibson leads her McLoughlin Middle School choir in a set of animated songs during Friday's class. Music programs in the Medford School District are among the programs and staff in jeopardy, if Measure 30 fails on Feb. 3. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell — — — If Measure 30 fails, county schools see &

36;17 million in cuts

Ask Josh Johnson how he would feel if the music program was canceled at McLoughlin Middle School, and he has a ready response.

I'd be outraged, said the eighth-grader, who is one of 280 students enrolled in the choir program at McLoughlin and Hedrick middle schools in Medford.

Ditto for his classmate A.J. Palazzolo, who said he would pay to keep the music program alive. I have totally learned a lot in a short amount of time, he said. This really is the high point for me.

The music program and others could be on the chopping block if voters reject Measure 30, a three-year tax surcharge, in the Feb. — special election. Jackson County schools stand to lose about &

36;17 million total.

While tax foes say these threats of cuts are just scare tactics, school officials point out that they already have been trimming back staff for three years.

— In the Ashland School District, 17 percent of its staff has been eliminated since the beginning of the millennium.

In general, many people don't realize that school districts like Ashland's have lost so much, said Superintendent Juli Di Chiro. As long as the school buses are rolling and there is football on Friday nights, they just don't see it.

This district is bracing for the loss of &

36;1.8 million if Measure 30 fails, which could trigger more staff reductions and larger class sizes.

Di Chiro said she constantly gets criticized by tax foes that government is inefficient.

At a meeting of the Jackson County commissioners this week, Di Chiro challenged Jack Walker, who often complains about government inefficiency, to come to her district. If you see any inefficiency come and show it to me, she said.

Her district, she said, has an administrative staff that costs — percent of the budget, compared to 4 to 5 percent in other districts.

In Medford, class sizes have crept above 30; Griffin Creek Elementary hit 39 students last week.

If this thing fails, we will have very large class sizes, and not just the spattering we see throughout the schools now, said Medford Superintendent Dick Gregory.

He expects 30 or more students in a class, with the mid-30s being fairly common. I could see us getting some spikes of more than 40 students, he said.

He predicted that if Measure 30 fails and the district lops &

36;7.6 million out of its &

36;79 million general fund budget, the school year could be reduced by 10 to 15 days. Staff would be reduced as well.

We have lost a lot, said Yvonne Fletes, Eagle Point School Board member. Between losing schools and losing staff and losing programs, it is really bad.

The district, which has lost 20 percent of its staff in the past three years, hasn't decided yet what sorts of cuts it will make if Measure 30 fails. The district expects to lose more than &

36;2 million.

I would probably say we would have to cut days, said Fletes. We can't afford to have higher class sizes.

Three years ago, the Central Point School District had 494 employees, but it has dropped to 445 after a series of reductions.

And the district expects that trend to continue. District business director Vicki Robinson hopes to avoid layoffs, thanks to teachers and others retiring because of uncertainty over education and the Public Employees Retirement System.

People have come into my office crying because they had to make the decision to retire, said Robinson.

Measure 30, she said, is not the answer to long-range funding for education. Measure 30 is just a Band-Aid.

Still, if Measure 30 passes, it will mean &

36;2.6 million for Central Point.

In Phoenix-Talent, &

36;1.7 million hinges on the vote.

Based on negotiations with the union, it is certainly possible to have less days and larger class sizes, said Superintendent Ben Bergreen. And any gains in federal and state requirements will be gone.

For Rogue River Superintendent Charles Hellman, Measure 30 is simple math for school districts. It's either addition or subtraction.

If it passes, Rogue River could add back lost positions, but if it fails, the school board would have to consider reducing class time or possibly positions.

In the past seven years, the district has whittled its staff from 78 to 60, a 23 percent reduction. Now it stands to lose &

36;682,000.

Butte Falls Superintendent Steve Pine said teachers' salaries were cut when four days were eliminated, but nobody seems to pay any attention to that.

The teachers don't get any credit for the load they've been carrying, he said, noting they also took a salary freeze.

His district has suffered a 10 percent reduction in staff in the past three years, and he expects another &

36;190,000 hit if Measure 30 fails. This could result in severe cutbacks to the media center, he said.

Like many superintendents, Pine is frustrated by constant reductions in staff and other resources.

We've got to come up with a more long-range plan than what we've done in the past, said Pine.

In Prospect, with 17 staff members three years ago, the loss of two in the past year is a 12 percent reduction.

Superintendent Don Alexander said it is particularly frustrating because he's heard privately from some of his board members and board members from other districts that they won't vote for Measure 30.

It's particularly frustrating for Alexander because next year he could lose &

36;174,000 if Measure 30 fails. This could prompt the district to cut school days.

With no long-range solution in sight, Alexander said it's difficult being in education.

We're having very little faith in anything right now, he said.

Cori Gibson leads her McLoughlin Middle School choir in a set of animated songs during Friday?s class. Music programs in the Medford School District are among the programs and staff in jeopardy, if Measure 30 fails on Feb. 3. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune images